It all started Saturday night, a time when no self-respecting plumber in the Americas will answer his 'emergency' phone. I went down to the basement to put in a load of laundry and noticed that the concrete floor under the washer was wet. We sometimes get a little water in that corner of the basement when it rains (and it had been), but something told me to open the door to the little bathroom that sits right next to our laundry area.
Tess was showering at the time; the waste pipe that runs from our washer to the main line was spurting some water out from under the cap. There's drainage in that area, so it wasn't too much of a mess yet, but I knew we had a problem.
"Houston," I said to Patrick when he walked through the door from some errands about a half hour later, "Come check this out." I turned on the tap to the slop sink so that he could see the mini-geyser-like action. He crouched down, hemmed and hawed, and talked man-talk to the pipe for a few minutes. I informed him that I'd already left a message for our regular plumber; we had some time to kill until we had to leave for dinner with our highly entertaining friends J&J, so we spent it leaving messages with other plumbers in the area. You know, just in case.
We kept hygiene activities to the barest minimum the next morning ("Take the shortest shower of your life," I admonished Christian as I shook him awake), and I knew that, between church and a luncheon at a friends' house, we'd be gone most of Sunday. I hoped that would mean we wouldn't have too much back-up to deal with, knowing that we wouldn't see a plumber until at least this morning.
We got home a little before Super Bowl kick-off time last night; our regular plumber had left a message (the only one who ever did), so I called him back on his cell phone right away. "Jack," I said, "I know you're just sitting down to watch the game, but please send somebody over first thing in the morning. You know we have five kids; you know how much flushing that entails." Maybe he sensed my panic, or maybe he was just eager to listen to Jordin Sparks sing "The Star-Spangled Banner." Either way, he hurriedly agreed; I rang off and got our game snacks ready using mostly disposable dishes.
I awoke at 5:30 this morning to a hideous burping sound. "It's the basement toilet," Patrick muttered into the dark. Christian, in his sleep-deprived haze (we had let the boys stay up for the whole exciting game), had forgotten our need to conserve and was taking a regular-length shower.
When Jack's son John arrived this morning at about 9:00, I led him to the little basement bathroom. I won't describe for you what met me when I opened the door, but remember my pregnancy-induced super-mega-bionic sense of smell and my overactive gag reflex. Breathing through my mouth, I walked back out and asked John to give me a minute. He, in turn, took one look at the room and said, "You'll need to call our 'rooter' subcontractor, Al. I don't have the equipment for this." He gave me the number and left quickly.
I called Al and got his angel wife on the phone. At first, she said Al's day was very full, but when I uttered the magic words "five kids" (and perhaps when she heard the desperation in my voice), she had a change of heart and was able to schedule us for an appointment at noon.
In the meantime, I put my normal routine on hold. No dishes (still left from Saturday); no laundry; no exercise, since I couldn't shower. No flushing (Daniel, a.k.a. "Mr. Fastidious," really didn't like that). I got caught up on some other tasks and waited.
Al was great. He arrived on time, brought in his fancy drain snake with attached camera (again: yerrrrch), and had the line cleared in about a half hour. I happily wrote him a large check, took his card (which I plan to laminate and put in a very safe place), and sent him on his way--after hearing what the clogging culprit was.
("They don't break down," Al said, waxing philosophical. "I've seen it time and time again. Once you flush one, it's the beginning of the end.")
Who flushed the wipes, and when? It is a puzzlement. Daniel has been potty-trained for a couple of months; I can't remember the last time we had the wipes box out. And I've always known that regular wipes aren't flushable; every box you buy says so in prominent typeface on the back.
And yet, and yet. The evidence was incontrovertible. (Though I should say that I take Al's testimony at face value; I didn't confirm his diagnosis with my own eyes.)
The crisis is over; all that remains is catching up on the laundry and kitchen maintenance. That, and somehow steeling myself--or providing enough incentive to someone else in the house--to take a bucket of water and some bleach down to the little bathroom to clean up the remaining detritus. Jove's nightgown: I can barely stand the thought.